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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

February 16, 1865

Editorial on “Street-Corner Generals”

The Richmond Times Dispatch printed a satirical editorial on the “street-corner” generals offering criticism of those in the field; this is further evidence of the South’s downfall, as even successful military leaders were being questioned by some citizens.

The Confederacy is blessed with a great number of “Street-Corner Generals.” They plan a campaign with sagacity, elaborate the various combinations with care and patience, and conduct it invariably to a successful, and even brilliant, conclusion. Their extensive military information, strong reasoning faculties, and decision and energy of tone and manner, never fail to cheer us with the hope that our country has yet in reserve an amount of military genius which, in the last extremity, will prove her salvation. We never fail to derive information and advantage from the criticisms of these Generals in Reserve on the other Generals now in the field. We always like to hear men talking on any subject which their previous education has not prepared them to comprehend. It shows original genius and vigor of understanding to grasp and master in an instant sciences which other men have only been able to subjugate by long years of study. Even Bonaparte did not disdain to develop and make efficient his natural genius for war by a thorough course of training at the military schools of France. We have reason to be proud of citizens who, with no such preparation, intuitively seize all the strong points of military science, and can tell us off-hand how a battle ought to be fought, a town defended, a fortress besieged, or a campaign conducted. If the cause is lost, it will be because the counsels of these wonderful strategists are not regarded, and General Lee fails to commence a correspondence with them and ascertain their views. The criticisms, at the street corners, of the various military leaders are highly instructive and edifying. Lee, Beauregard and Johnson are not aware of that skillful and thorough analysis of their respective and relative claims to popular favor which may be any day heard at the lamp posts. A Directory, self-constituted it is true, but none the less modest and intelligent on that account, holds its daily sessions at the street corners of the Capital, and settles the merit and the fate of every General of the Republic. The Directory at Paris used to take off the heads of unsuccessful officers. The Directory at Richmond simply takes off their reputation, passes a vote of want of confidence, and gracefully adjourns to dinner. This is humane and generous, but significant and important. Every military leader of delicate susceptibilities, who is subjected to censure from such a source, must feel like throwing up - his commission. We long for the time when the merits of the Street-Corner Generals will be properly appreciated by their Government, and our armies be placed under their direct supervision and control. We have had too much of West Point in this war. It is high time that the volunteer genius of the country should burst the cords that hold it to the earth, and, with three armies and a hopeful nation on its back, soar aloft.